Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham hosted Leah Durant, executive director of anti-immigrant organization Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), on her radio show to promote an upcoming nativist rally against immigration reform. During the segment, Durant also repeated the myth that unemployment among African-Americans is spiking because of immigration reform.
In June, when Ingraham hosted Durant, she described her guest as a "progressive" voice on immigration reform. But Durant's group is far from progressive with ties to nativist organizations, including NumbersUSA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
On July 15, a number of anti-immigrant groups, including Durant's, will gather in Washington, D.C., for what they are calling the "DC March for Jobs," in an effort to hijack the immigration reform debate. The event is being sponsored by the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA), a group that, as People For The American Way noted, "is just the latest incarnation of a shifting series of front groups for the anti-immigrant nativist group FAIR, which has been trying for years to drive a wedge between African Americans and Latinos."
In fact, as the Anti-Defamation League has documented, BALA is the new name of what was once known as the African American Leadership Council (AALC). AALC, along with You Don't Speak for Me (YDSFM), was part of a network of groups formed as a way to expand opposition to immigration reform in black and Latino communities by recruiting a coalition of minority conservative leaders. AALC was modeled after a previous similar effort -- orchestrated by FAIR -- that birthed a group called Choose Black America (CBA), which had little impact on the immigration debate.
In a 2006 profile of CBA that mapped the organization's formation -- announced "at a FAIR-sponsored press conference" -- the Southern Poverty Law Center reported:
In recent months, [Terry] Anderson and a smattering of other African-American anti-immigration activists, most notably longtime Los Angeles homeless activist Ted Hayes ... have become the front men for a campaign orchestrated and funded by white anti-immigration leaders. The campaign aims to convert black Americans to their cause, and simultaneously to provide groups like the Minuteman Project and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) with cover against accusations of racism.
Beyond putting a black face in the spotlight as often as possible at rallies and conventions like Unite to Fight, this effort also consists of the new FAIR front group, Choose Black America -- a supposedly nationwide coalition of black business and community leaders spreading the message that "mass illegal immigration has been the single greatest impediment to black advancement in this country over the past 25 years."
SPLC went on to describe how, after writing a series of columns critical of immigration reform, African-American commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson was recruited by FAIR to join the CBA coalition:
FAIR offered to fly him to D.C. and put him up in a nice hotel if he would join their press conference, pose for a photo, and agree to be identified as a founding member of CBA. Hutchinson said no. "They assumed that essentially I was on their team, and I would be an effective advocate for their point of view as an African-American spokesperson," Hutchinson says. He rejected the offer, he says, because of FAIR's ties to white supremacist groups and because he didn't want to be associated with the anti-multiculturalism attitudes of FAIR founder John Tanton.
As SPLC noted, a "primary FAIR aim in creating the CBA has been to convince black Americans that Latino immigrants will take their jobs or significantly depress their wages, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary."
During her appearance on Ingraham's radio show, Durant repeated this sentiment, claiming that immigration reform will "decimate low-skilled workers, not just blacks -- but a large number of low-skilled workers happen to be black." Referring to the Senate-passed immigration bill, she added: "So if the bottom line is, if you care about your constituents and you care about black unemployment, you've got to stand in opposition to this bill."
In fact, the evidence is overwhelming that "there is little apparent relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates among African Americans, or any other native born racial/ethnic group, at the state or metropolitan level."
But BALA's July 15 rally is predicated on advancing these myths. The event has been endorsed by Fox News contributors Herman Cain and former Rep. Allen West (R-FL), with the latter being a featured speaker. Three Republicans -- Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) and Reps. Steve King (IA) and Mo Brooks (AL) -- have also endorsed the event and have signed on to speak at the rally. The rest of the speakers' lineup,which includes Durant, reads like a who's who of the nativist and anti-immigrant movement:
- Anti-immigrant commentator Michael Cutler, who is also associated with CIS.
- Frank Morris, who sits on the boards of FAIR and CIS and is the vice president of PFIR.
- Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, who has made several inflammatory remarks including claiming that President Obama is racist against white people, that he was elected because "Satan is targeting the U.S.," and that black clergy who support Obama are "leading their congregations to hell." He has also previously thanked God for slavery and in a recent column at WND.com wrote that "black racism is out-of-control "and that "black racism ... killed Paula Deen's career!"
As People For The American Way stressed, "The members of BALA are entitled to voice their opinions, but they should be mistaken neither for a mainstream group nor for a fresh voice in the immigration reform debate."
Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, has repudiated BALA's message and made clear that the group does not speak for the wider African-American community:
Actual civil rights leaders view immigration reform as a defining civil and human rights issue of our time. The opinions expressed in today's press conference are not shared by most African-Americans, civil rights leaders, members of the Congressional Black Caucus or any other significant constituency in the African-American community.
According to a poll by Lake Research Partners commissioned by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 66 percent of African-Americans support immigration reform. In addition, African-American voters are credited with providing the "critical push" that was needed to help approve Maryland's "DREAM Act" referendum during the last election, which offers in-state tuition to undocumented students who want to attend college. At the time, 70 percent of black voters said they supported the "DREAM Act."